"The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil." Proverbs 19:23
My first pastorate was in the City of Tempe, Arizona. It was located in an area called The Valley of the Sun. My wife loved the weather there. I should have known better. It was not like living n a desert. It was a desert. We moved there in the summer of 1983 and left in the summer of 1987. I call it four years and five summers. Man it was hot. Johnny Carson took a shot at this area's weather one night on the old "Tonight" show. He said, "They call it a dry heat. But you know folks, there is no humidity in a nuclear meltdown either. It is still going to kill you."
My wife, Dana, real sun goddess, always had a great, golden tan. I, on the other hand, was an "Irish tanner." I would burn, peel, burn, peel, burn,peel and maintain a hint of pale pink throughout the year. I had three episodes with heat stroke because I did not take my wife's advice and carry a bottle of water and drink from it like a prospector's canteen throughout the day. She kept reminding me, "We live in the desert, and everything you see is a mirage. Without water being poured into the ground every green thing you see will die. We are evaporating as we speak so drink up or die." I eventually caught on, but not after collapsing in the shower three different times. Note: When you reach a certain point of evaporation, you will not be able to suck enough water, fast enough from the faucet to replace what you lost in a day. Third time's a charm. Class dismissed.
One particularly hot day in May, 120 degrees in the shade with no shade, I was sitting at a stop light in the city and noticed an unusual church sign posted in huge, permanent letters on the entrance of their worship center. The words were, "Come...and Rest." I pulled off the road and into their parking lot. I knew from their sign that it was an unusual church or it would have said something like...
- "Come...and Serve"
- "Come...and Give"
- "Come...and Grow"
- "Come...and Go"
- "The end of your search for a friendly church."
- "First This of That"
I parked my car right in front of the sign like a man who had just found an oasis in the desert. I knew the source of the statement had to be based on the call of Jesus to His disciples, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) The cynic in me thought, "How can you build a church on calling people to rest, when there is so much of the Lord's work to do?" I should probably admit to you that I had been doing a lot of work for the Lord, but not spending much time with the Lord of the work. Later that day, I did a little research and find out that this was the largest church in the area. Evidently, I wasn't the only lost miner that had been lured off the highway by a sign that offered the promise of relief. Jesus must have known what he was talking about after all. Go figure.
One of the most prolonged and perilous epidemics sweeping this nation is sleep deprivation. It has been blamed for a host of illnesses and the possible source of road rage. There are countless numbers of remedies that promise relief. They run the gamut from surgery to sleeping pills, and mattresses to mantras. This is an indication that no one is getting the rest they need. How can this be? In spite of the economic downturn of recent months, this is still the wealthiest nation in the world. Regardless of what some would have us believe, our health-care system is still the envy of the world. Social apologists would have us believe the world hates us, but our borders and beaches are overwhelmed daily by those seeking relief from regimes that offer no hope. Comedians are flooding the airways with a constant stream of humor to relieve our stress and help us prepare for a good night's sleep. Churches on every corner offering a wide variety of sacred solutions for sinners, seekers, and saints. Why are so many people still in need of rest?
"The fear of the Lord leads to life." Proverbs provides a road map to an oasis that offers rest in the middle of the desert. The walk towards the saving shade and life-giving water begins with reverence for God. This refers to a respect for God as the source of life. He has written the book on rest, so when in doubt read His directions. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me." (John 14:6) OK. I know we live in world that wants me to believe that there is no absolute truth, and my values should not be forced on them. So, let me put this "new" source of life to the Dr. Phil test, "How's that workin' for ya'?" Note: When people get tired enough, they will come to the end of themselves and the beginning of God. Til then, don't gouge out their eyes, just keep the light on for them. Christ followers sleep best with the light on anyway.
"So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil." "Restless heart" syndrome deprives more people of sleep than any "restless leg." The gnawing hunger of an empty heart is relentless. It will never be satisfied until it is filled with the food God has prepared for His children, Jesus. When He puts His children to sleep, he guards the door of their heart. No intrusion will ever come into the life of His child without passing through His heart first. If it comes to us through Him, it must be received for our help and not our hurt. The Psalmist comforts us with this reminder about God. "He gives to His beloved, even in his sleep." (Psalms 127:2) This may mean God gives sleep to His beloved, or God gives what His children need while they sleep. Either way, taking it to heart provides a calm in the heart of His children that cannot be disrupted by unwanted visitors or late night marketing calls. Lean on Jesus for The Rest of your life.